The Centre for Gender, Research, and Advocacy Development, CEGRAD, has commemorated this year’s International Women’s Day with a symposium on campus.
The Day, marked annually on March 8, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Globally, the theme for this year’s celebration was “I am Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights”.
Locally, CEGRAD marked the day with a symposium and a debate competition at the C.A Ackah Lecture Theatre Auditorium 900.
Delivering the keynote address on the topic: “Gender Equality So Far", a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast, Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, called upon female academics and privileged women to be the voice for the voiceless and vulnerable who were lagging behind in the fight to attain their rights. She noted that educated and women in high positions in society should serve the interest of the less privileged women whose voices were not heard.
"There are many policies that some of us who have voices make that sometimes don’t help the ordinary woman whose voice is not heard. The pitfall of this journey is not to focus on the privileged. Those of us who have voices, we have to use them in their interest. Therefore the power that we have gained by coming this far should be plowed back", Prof. Opoku-Agyemang, admonished.
Prof. Opoku-Agyemang who is also the former Minister for Education called for the creation of a gender-sensitive academic environment aimed at increasing the number of females and professionals in education for them to progress and flourish in all spheres of life. She indicated that gender remained the most universally entrenched phenomenon due to the persistently low numbers of females in the educational system. Therefore, she called for the expansion of institutional and infrastructural capacity for the provision of increased education for female students and professionals with attention to societal norms and policy directives. She called for an end to negative practices that were inimical to the progression of women and girls.
The former Vice-Chancellor was of the hope that the creation of a gender-sensitive academic environment was a special way of advancing the course of women through effective and efficient mentorship, coaching, sharing of experiences and support.
While urging authorities to consider the social profile of child marriage, Prof Opoku-Agyemang expressed worry about the increasing numbers of child marriages in Ghana. She appealed to policy makers to take steps to eliminate the root cause of child marriages, adding that “if poverty is the reason, let us invest in ways that will alleviate it and create hope in the future of the girl child in sustainable ways.”
Another Speaker, Mr. Adolf Awuku Bekoe,the National Coordinator, Coalition of Domestic Violence Legislation, who spoke on the topic: "Male Involvement in Gender Issues and their Roles in Ensuring Gender Equality", observed that men involvement in gender issues would go a long way to end violence against women. He said men had always been a problem towards gender equality. He noted that the construction of masculinity played a crucial role in shaping violence against women.
Mr. Bekoe indicated that men who champion gender equality face herculean challenges from both males and females who normally looked at them with suspicion. Using himself as an example, he recalled with sadness that when he was the president of a female coalition and sought sponsorship from a female Non-governmental organisation, he was told that" You are a man, our money doesn’t go to men, we won’t fund your organisation".
He said there was a need to address unequal power relations between men and women so as to create equal opportunities for women to enable them to realise their dreams. "Over the years structures and systems have been put in their way to marginalised them", he added.
As part of the symposium, a panel discussion on the topic: " “Gender equality in UCC: experiences, challenges and successes thus far”, was held.
The discussants included a former Pro Vice-Chancellor, Prof. K.T Oduro; Dean of the School of Medical Sciences, Prof. Ivy Ekem, Director of the Institute of Education, Prof Christine Adu-Yeboah, and the College Registrar, College of Agric and Natural Resources, Mrs. Mildred Asmah. They urged women and students to be bold and voice any form of sexual harassment that they faced on campus. They further called for strict enforcement of the Sexual harassment policy to deal with perpetrators of the act.
The panel discussion was moderated by a former Director of CEGRAD, Prof. Akua Britwum.
The Director of CEGRAD, Dr. Georgina Yaa Oduro later launched the Sexual Harassment posters and flyers to educate members of the University Community and the general public.